New Instructions For The Implementation Of The Rules Regulating The Turkish Straits Maritime Traffic Scheme

Introduction

Turkish Straits have crucial importance for the international shipping industry especially for trades involving Black Sea, Sea of Azov, Marmara Sea, Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, considering the maritime traffic density in/around the Turkish Straits caused by substantial trade capacity, the Rules Regulating the Turkish Straits Maritime Traffic Scheme (“Rules”) was published in Official Gazette  and entered into force in 1998.  Following its coming into force, for the implementation of the Rules and meet the current requirements, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (formerly named as the Ministry of Transport, Maritime and Communications) published several instructions.

Recently, the Instructions for the Implementation of the Rules Regulating the Turkish Straits Maritime Traffic Scheme (“New Instructions”) is entered into force on 01.09.2018 bythe General Directorate of the Regulation of Seas and Inland Waters (“General Directorate”) and as per the Article 22 of the New Instructions, the Instructions for the Implementation of the Rules Regulating the Turkish Straits Maritime Traffic Scheme dated 16.10.2012 (“Former Instructions”) is abolished.

The purpose of the New Instructions is to increase the security of navigation and safety of the life, goods and environment at/around the Turkish Straits. In this memorandum, the Former Instructions and the New Instructions will be compared to understand which amendments are implemented and subsequently, new regulations which came into force with New Instructions for the first time will be detailed.

 

I. COMPARISON OF THE FORMER – NEW INSTRUCTIONS

 

  • P&I Club Insurance Cover

As per the Former Instructions, it was stipulated that 500 GT and larger vessels shall have a valid P&I insurance cover during their passage through the Turkish Straitsfor the collection of fees, expenses and compensations such as the salvage fees, expenses for the wreck removal, compensation for damages to the marine environment, compensation for pollution and compensation for any kind of damage to the port, pier, coastal structures etc.

With the New Instructions,P&I coverage requirement has been widened to include 300 GT and larger vessels, all of the vessel those carrying dangerous cargo and all of the tugs performing towage services. Moreover with the New Instructions it is also required that the local agent shall investigatethe validation of the P&I insurance policy and indicate iton SP-1 report form that will be given to the Turkish Straits Vessel Traffic Service (“VTS”).

  • “In Transit” Status/The Stopover Period

In 2017, Article 10 of the Rules which was limiting the maximum “in transit”/stopover period during the Turkish Straitspassagewas amended by the Turkish authorities, and the maximum “in transit”/stopover period in Turkish Straits was increased from 48 hours to 168 hours (7 days). However, prior to the implementation of the New Instructions, under the Article 4 of the Former Instructions, it wasstipulated that the maximum “in transit”/stopover period as48 hours. Now, with the implementation of the New Instructions, the maximum “in transit”/stopover period is also increased to 168 hours and thus, the New Instructions are adapted to the Rules as amended in 2017.

Considering that losing the transit title means additional obligations and fees (such as obtaining a free pratique and additional port and lighthouse fees) for the vessels, preservation of the transit condition can be essential. With the new regulations, transiting vessels see their transit condition considerably extended granting them additional time to complete and fulfill their needs and operations during their Bosphorus and Dardenelles passages without incurring additional costs.

  • Salvage

The first and foremost amendment is the revision regardingthe general principals of salvage operations. As per the Article 17 of the New Instructions, the relevant port authority shall ex officio(without the need for any request or permission from vessel interests)ensure that salvage services are given to the vessels which get involved to collision, grounding, contact with coastline, friction and fire in Istanbul (Bosphorus) and Canakkale(Dardanelles) Straits and at anchorage areas specified in the Rules.Furthermore, in such cases, all inspections including underwater surveys and ascertainment shall also becarried out by the Coastal Safety in relation to the eventual salvage.

Moreover, it is also stipulated that in such cases vessels shall not carry out salvage operations, ballast operations, cargo discharge/transfer, machinery operation and similar operations (i.e. rescue operations on their own),provided that these are precautions to be taken for the prevention of pollution of the environment and ensuring the safety of life in any case without the use of any chemical substances. In case of abovementioned situations, such as collision or grounding etc., under the Former Instructionsthe port authoritywas granting 3 hours to the master of the vessel for submission of the plan of salvage operation and subsequently, if the planwas accepted, the port authority was granting 6 hours for salvage operation with vessel’s own means.

Considering the aforementioned amendment/new regulation, in case of aforementioned situations, salvage services shallonly be carried out by the relevant port authority ex officio, and notime will be granted to the vessel for the salvage byher own means and it is also banned under the same Article. In other words, in case of aforementioned situations, the vessels shall not try to perform salvage operations or resolve a breakdown, malfunction etc. by herown means.

On the other hand, under the Former Regulations, it was stipulated that the vessel shall not be allowed to resume navigation before completion of administrative investigation regarding the incident and confirmation of the fact that she is technically fit to resume navigation. However under the New Instructions, it is stipulated that vessel shall not be allowed to resume navigation before completionof judicial and administrative precautions, completion of administrative investigation regarding the incident and payment of environmental damages, salvage expenses or without providing securities for these matters.

  • In Case of Breakdown, Grounding, Contact with Coastline and Other Accidents

With the New Instructions, some amendments have been implemented for the cases of breakdown, malfunction, grounding, contact with coastline/shore etc. As per the Article 17 of the Former Instructions, in case of aforementioned casesduring the vessels’passage through the Turkish Straits, the Article 15 of the Rules shall be applied and as per the said article, vessels shall inform the VTSCentre immediately and request necessary instructions. Subsequently, upon the completion of taking necessary measures by the VTS, vessels shall continue their passage under the assistance of a pilot and follow VTS’s instructions and measures.

The New Instructions has maintained above regulation under the Article 17 of the same, however, as per the said article, such requirement has been extended to cover whole VTS Area, i.e. including the Marmara Sea, not solely Istanbul (Bosphorus) and Canakkale (Dardanelles) Straits. Furthermore as per the Article 17 of the New Instructionswithin VTS Area (except boundaries of Istanbul and Canakkale Straits), in case of  a breakdown, malfunction, grounding, contact with coastline/shore etc. navigation of vessel shall be subject to the additional passage conditions which will be determined by the Commission (which includes one expert from the harbour master office, one head pilot from Pilot Organization and one operator from the VTS Centre) pursuant to result of survey carried by classification societies authorized by the Authority.

On the other hand, in case of a breakdown in the traffic separation scheme of Marmara Sea, the Former Instructions were granting maximum four (4) hours to the vessel for the repair of such breakdown. If the vessel wasunable to repair its breakdown at the end of granted 4 hours, the said vessel shall be anchored to safe zones accompanied by tugboat(s) sent by VTS Centre and additional twenty four (24) hours were grantedto the vessel for the repair of such breakdown. With the New Instructions, the aforementioned additional time of additional twenty four (24) hours for repair is abolished and shall not be granted to vessels. As per the Article 18 of the New Instructions, maximum 4 hours will be granted to the vessel for the repair of her breakdown and in case that the vessel is unable to solve her breakdown, she will be anchored to safe zones accompanied with tugboat(s) and subsequently, Article 5(1) of the New Instructions will be applied. Accordingly, the vessel experienced thebreakdown and anchored to the safe zone will be allowed to transit Turkish Straits pursuant to the permission of the relevant harbour master office that shall be granted subject to a survey which will be performed by surveyors recognized by the relevant authorities, and confirming the safe passage of the vessel’s transit through the Turkish Straits under the assistance of a pilot.

  • Technical Capability Failure and Seaworthiness:

As per the Article 6 of the Former Instructions, in case of a vessel having lost their technical capability and/or seaworthiness described in Article 5 of the Rules prior to the entrance of the straits, she maytransit Turkish Straitpursuant to the permission of the relevant harbour master office that shall be granted subject to a survey which will be performed by surveyors recognized by the relevant authorities, and confirming the safe passage of the vessel’s transit through the Turkish Straits under the assistance of a pilot.Article 5 of the New Regulation has extended the scope of the abovementioned provision by including the entries to Turkish Straits from Marmara Sea.

Moreover, one newprovision has been also added with the New Regulations and as per the said provision, in case of breakdown/malfunction in Marmara Sea and the vessel calls one of the Marmara ports after the therepair of such breakdown/malfunction, an inspection will be made by the harbour master’s survey committee or by the class society recognised by the authorities.

As it can be seen from the abovementioned amendments, whereas the provisions of the Former Instructions were covering only Turkish Straits, within the scope of the New Instructions, the Marmara Sea is also covered by the same.

  • Rules for the Passage of Turkish Straits

The Rules for the Passage of Turkish Straits which are depending on their passage time whether in a day-time or night, their size and their type are regulated in both Instructions under the Article 14. Considering the New Article 14, it is observed that slight amendments have been made and the limits for passage atnight are tightened under the New Article. In general, the new rules for the Passage of Turkish Straits are as follows.

Istanbul (Bosphorus) Strait

  • All tankers and vessels that are carrying dangerous cargo with a LOA of 200 meters and longer,
  • All tows,
  • All vessels subject to the additional passage conditions,
  • All vessels with a LOA of 250 meters and longer (except tankers and ships carrying dangerous goods) and/or deep draft vessels,

 

shall perform their transit through the Straitduring day-time period.Moreover, in line with the New Instructions, it is highly recommended(not forced) that such vessels should perform their transit under the assistance of pilots and with the escort of tugboat(s) to be determined by VTS Centre.

Canakkale(Dardanelles)Strait

  • Whether full or empty, all of tankers with a LOA of 200 meters and longer, vessels carrying IMDG Code 1 with a LOA of 200 meters and longer and deep draft vessels shall perform their Canakkale (Dardanelles) Strait passages during day-time period.
  • All tankers with a LOA of 250 meters and longer, vessels carrying dangerous cargo (except Ro-Ro and Container Vessels) are highly recommended (not forced) to perform their passage through theCanakkale (Dardanelles) Strait under the assistance of pilots and with the escort of tugboat(s) to be determined by VTS Centre. These vessels shall perform their passage through the Canakkale (Dardanelles) Strait during day-time period.

 

  • Overtaking Vessel

Under the Former Instructions, in the case that the vessel needs to overtake a vessel that is navigating with a lower speed during their transit in Istanbul (Bosphorus) and Canakkale (Dardanelles) Straits, she shall perform such overtaking upon approval of the VTS Centre. However, in addition to the approval with the New Instructions in order to overtake an another vessel, instruction from the relevant VTS Centre is required. In other words, the vessel is intending to overtake a vessel, she shall perform such overtaking upon approval and in line with the instructions of the relevant VTS Centre.

 

II. NEW INSTRUCTIONS

By way of the New Instructions, completely new regulations whichwere not stipulated under the Former Instructions are entered into force. In this section, the new regulations will be explained.

  • LPG Vessels (Including LPG Vessels Which Are Not Carrying LPG)

Under the Former Instructions, the passage conditions through the Turkish Straits of LNG vessels were regulated under the Article 16 and conditions for LPG Vessels were not regulated specifically.With the New Instructions, the passage conditions of LPG Vessels are regulated specifically.

As per the Article 8(2) of the New Instructions, LPG vessels shall perform their passage through the Turkish Straits in accordance with below mentioned provisions.

› LPG vessels with LOA of 150 meters and longer shall perform their Turkish Straits passages duringday-time period and under the assistance of pilot and with tugboats.

› LPG vessels with LOA of 150-200(150 included, 200 excluded) meters shall perform their Turkish Straits passages with tugboat(s) with a Bollard Pull not less than 60 tons, while vessels with LOA ofover 200 meters shall be escorted by tugboat(s) of at least 90 tons Bollard Pull

› Total Bollard Pull of tugboat(s) may be increased depending on weather and sea conditions if necessary.

 

  • Vessels Carrying Military Vessel

The New Instructions has implemented completely new provision about vessels carrying military vessel. Under the Article 6 of the New Instructions, it is stipulated that merchant vessels carrying military vessel(s) as cargo on board shall be considered as military vessels during their passages through the Turkish Straits.

  • Meeting Places with the Local Agents

Under the Former Instructions, there were not any limitations regarding the meeting place of between the local shipping agents and vessels. However, the New Instructions introduce a restriction for the place of meeting and its duration. As per the Article 19 of the New Instructions, vessels navigating in Istanbul Strait shall not contact with their local agents in other areas than anchorage areas. However, in the case of obligatory situations, provided that the necessary authorisation is obtained from the VTS Centre, vesselscan contact their agents;

–  On the South, at the west of the longitude crossing Ataköy Marina and for a period of maximum 1 hour,

– On the North, at the north of line that unites Hamsi Port and FilBurnu and for a period of maximum 15 minutes,

provided they keep the very starboard side of their traffic separation scheme, paying attention to the navigation/traffic rules.

  • Piers/Legs of The Bridges

Within the scope of the Former Instructions, there were not any special regulation regarding the navigation under piers (legs) of the bridges located over the Istanbul Strait, Canakkale Strait and Marmara Sea. However, considering the recently established Third Istanbul Bridge namely Yavuz Sultan Selim which is located on the north of the Istanbul Strait, the Osman Gazi Bridge which is located over the Gulf of Izmit (Marmara Sea) and the new Canakkale Bridge which is under construction, the General Directorate has implemented new regulations on the passage under the bridges and the passing distance.

As per the Article 20 of the New Instructions, vessels, including the local traffic, shall not overtake another vessel during their transit between piers (legs) of the bridges and they shall navigate from a distance of at least 100 meters from piers (legs) of the bridges, in other words, there should be a hundred meters distance between piers of the bridges and vessels those passing through under the bridges.

Conclusion

In Conclusion, considering the amendments on the Former Instructions and the new regulations implemented by the New Instructions, it seems that the main purpose is to increase maritime safety in/around Turkish Straits including the Marmara Sea and the VTS area and to prevent potential pollution risks, damages to shore structures as much as possible, also protect the safety of life, goods and marine environment. Therefore, considering the prominent recent incidents and risks occurred in the Turkish waters, the new provisions of the Instructions for the Implementation of the Rules Regulating the Turkish Straits Maritime Traffic Scheme are introduced and have entered into force as of 1 September 2018.

We hope this memorandum and its content would be helpful for the shipping community and assist to decrease high-cost incidents in/around the Turkish Straits.

If you require any further information or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

GUR LAW FIRM